Another fine guest post from Emma Holliday:
Last month, I wrote a guest post about my home state of Rhode Island, but this week I want to talk about my adopted home of Boston. I’ve lived in the greater Boston area for over 4 years, first as a college student, and now as a proper adult.
And I have the knowledge of Boston that comes with being a local.
When we first move to a new city, we spend some of our time exploring – seeing the sights, trying the restaurants, meandering down cute side streets – but we also spend some of our time saying, “I live here, I can see that amazing museum or landmark that people travel across the world to visit any day.” And we end up putting off experiences until we realize we’ve lived in Boston for 4 years and never been to Fenway.
Now, I don’t have much interest in Fenway because I’m not a follower of the Church of Baseball, but my point stands, and I have further anecdotal evidence to back it up.
Last Fall, I spent a few days in Vienna while backpacking Europe, and I couchsurfed with a woman in her early 30s. One evening, she invited me out to dinner with a friend of hers who asked me what I had done that day.
I told them I had gone on a tour of Schönbrunn Palace, one of Vienna’s major attractions and the former summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs. The friend expressed an interest in going there someday because, in her decade of living in Vienna, she’d never visited. My couchsurfing host had been once, on a school trip when she was young, and didn’t remember much about it.
I have similarly vague childhood memories of many of Boston’s major attractions, thanks to growing up in Rhode Island, just a 2-hour drive away. I’ve been aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, and I recommend it as a fun family activity although I can’t give you more details than that.
I walked a portion of The Freedom Trail with my high school history class, where I played the role of annoying kid who knows the answers to all the tour guide’s questions about various Revolutionary sites.
You can, of course, follow the freedom trail route without an official guide, although these days I wouldn’t be able to help answer your questions about why the Old South Meeting House is famous.
The Boston landmark that I remember most fondly from my childhood and which I continue to frequent as an adult is the Museum of Science.
Countless school field trips culminated in a show at the museum’s planetarium or Omni Theater – a dome-shaped IMAX where the screen continues up the curved walls and onto the ceiling.
The indoor lightning show is always a hit with kids and adults, particularly when the presenter stands inside a giant birdcage and wows everyone with his or her ability to remain unharmed while lightning strikes the metal cage.
I remember the musical staircase that children were invited to run up and down in order to play different notes, and which, sadly, no longer exists. I remember each field trip ended with my friends and I spending our souvenir money on astronaut ice cream or rock candy. And I believe that, no matter how old I get, the dinosaur exhibit will always excite and fascinate me.
Despite what the last few paragraphs seem to imply, I have spent some time exploring Boston as an adult, but I’ve explored like a local.
I have an intimate knowledge of the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, and a passing knowledge of most everywhere else. I can tell you that the Museum of Fine Arts makes an excellent first date. I know the public transit is comprehensive, if a little slow, but the city’s also quite walkable, and it would be a shame not to do some exploring on your own two feet.
When you get tired, you can rest on the grass in Boston Common and feel the subway cars rumbling underneath you. I can tell you that taking the ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands is a great escape from city life in the summertime. And although it can get bitterly cold here in the winter, there is nothing like the Fall colors on one of Boston’s many college campuses.
I could go on about my city for longer. I could tell you about the coffee shops I frequent — Diesel Cafe in Davis Square is my absolute favorite, but Voltage, a coffeeshop and art gallery with an interesting list of gourmet lattes is also good.
My local bias is showing because these cafes are in Somerville (where I used to live) and Cambridge, respectively. If you’re looking for an option in Boston proper, Thinking Cup is your best bet.
I could tell you about my favorite restaurants — Cuchi Cuchi for international small plates; Elephant Walk for French, Cambodian, and French-Cambodian food; and Belle Isle Seafood for that classic New England experience.
I could also tell you about the restaurants I’ve been meaning to try, and the museums I still want to visit, and the places I’ve yet to venture, but instead I’ll just say, if you find yourself in Boston, let me know, and we can do some exploring together. I promise we’ll see the city like tourists and like locals.
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Emma Holliday is a freelance writer and travel blogger who likes drinking tea, petting puppies, and analyzing representations of women in media. When she’s not busy wishing she were a polyglot, she’s backpacking Europe, working on an organic farm in Hawai’i, or planning her next misadventure. Read more of Emma’s writing on her blog, An Opportune Moment.